UTSA’s Germany remains questionable for next week pending test results

UTSA center Jacob Germany remains questionable for next week’s first full-session, preseason practices pending results of medical tests, Roadrunners coach Steve Henson said Friday.

“Jacob’s just having some precautionary tests,” Henson said. “He got checked out this morning. Hoping to get the doctor to look at the results as soon as possible. Obviously we’d like to have that happen today. But I can’t guarantee it will.

“If not, hopefully (by) Monday morning. We’re as anxious to find out his status as anybody else because we start practice Monday (afternoon). So, that’s really all I have.”

Germany, a 6-foot-11 senior, sat out UTSA practices on Tuesday and Thursday. Henson characterized the setback as an illness, but he didn’t elaborate, saying only that it’s not believed to be Covid-related.

“He’s doing OK,” the coach said. “We just got to run some tests.”

Germany’s health question comes just as the Roadrunners prepare to ramp up preparation for the coming season.

Since the start of the fall semester in late August, players were on an eight-hour per week regimen, mixing weights and court time. Next week, preparation time increases to 20 hours per week.

In the past week, UTSA practiced Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. They were given the day off on Friday.

Henson said he likes the vibe around this year’s team.

“To this point, I’ve loved their focus, their energy, their eagerness to play the right way,” he said. “It’s just been very refereshing. This group likes being around each other. They like spending time together. They like spending time together in the gym.

“It’s a fun group to be around every day.”

As for the overall health of his team, a lot depends on the status of Germany, who led the Roadrunners last year with 15.2 points and 48.8 percent shooting. Also, 7.3 rebounds per game.

Seven-foot center Carlton Linguard, Jr., a transfer from Kansas State, won’t participate in workouts for the time being. The former Stevens High School standout is rehabilitating a knee injury.

Forward Aleu Aleu, knocked out with a knee injury last January during his first season at UTSA, has been one of the bright spots for Henson lately.

Aleu didn’t participate in contact work in the summer, but the multi-skilled 6-foot-8 forward now seems to be rounding into form.

“Aleu had good practices Tuesday and Thursday,” Henson said. “Looked like he’s feeling better. He ran today, so it was good to see him get some conditioning on turf.”

UTSA will have six weeks to prepare for the season. The Roadrunners will play an exhibition on Nov. 2 at home against Schreiner College. They’ll open the regular season at home on Nov. 7 against Trinity.

Germany’s status uncertain with full practices looming next week

Though UTSA center Jacob Germany was on the court and dressed out in his uniform for team pictures on Thursday afternoon, he was not on the floor for a workout later in the day.

He was on the sideline, seated at the scorer’s table, as the Roadrunners went through one of their final abbreviated practices before expanded-session, preseason drills commence on Monday.

Jacob Germany. UTSA men's basketball beat Rice 82-71 on Saturday, March 5, 2022, at the Convocation Center in the Roadrunners' final game of the regular season. The Conference USA Tournament starts Tuesday. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany averaged 15.3 points per game and shot 48.8 percent from the field last season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA coach Steve Henson declined to elaborate on the nature of Germany’s setback or how long he might be out. The coach said he’d know more in coming days.

“He’s seeing the doctor tomorrow,” the coach said. “I don’t know if I’m at liberty to talk about what it is … I don’t know if he was out Monday? But he was definitely out Tuesday and today. He’s going to see the doctor tomorrow morning.

“Hopefully we’ll know by tomorrow afternoon whether he’s good to go on Monday.”

Germany, a senior, is the pillar around which the Roadrunners hope to rebuild in the wake of a 10-22 record a year ago.

Last season, the 6-foot-11 post from Oklahoma led the Roadrunners with 15.3 points on 48.8 percent shooting from the field. He also averaged 7.2 rebounds.

Despite the situation with Germany, Henson said he feels like the team has made good progress through the summer and the early fall workouts.

“Really good,” he said. “The fall felt a lot like the summer did. We want a new-ness. We want a freshness on Monday. They know that it gets a lot more real. It’s longer and more intense on Monday.

“But to this point, I’ve loved their focus, their energy, their eagerness to play the right way. It’s just been very refereshing. This group likes being around each other. They like spending time together. They like spending time together in the gym.

“It’s a fun group to be around every day.”

Full-session workouts

Since the first of June, the Roadrunners have been limited to eight hours a week, which has broken down to about four in the weight room and four on the floor. It’s also been that way for the past four weeks to start the fall semester.

On Monday, the allowable workload will increase to 20 hours a week, inclusive of weights, meetings, film sessions and practices. As a result, the Roadrunners will enter a phase next week in which they will hold 30 workouts over a 42-day stretch.

Game preparation

UTSA will host an exhibition game against Schreiner on Nov. 2. The regular-season opener follows on Nov. 7 at home against Trinity. UTSA will play a 31-game schedule, including 18 at home.

Sharing the ball

UTSA’s workout on Thursday afternoon featured some crisp passing. The ball moved well from the top, to the baseline, to the post and back out to the perimeter.

UTSA men's basketball player Japhet Medor at the Convocation Center on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

Florida native Japhet Medor is expected to play a major role for the Roadrunners at point guard. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Newcomer Japhet Medor initiated plays from the point guard position with precision. Christian Tucker also enjoyed a good day at the point. Medor, Tucker and veteran Erik Czumbel are expected to play the point this season.

Ball movement and shot selection will be critical to the team’s success.

“We’ve got several guys that can make plays,” Henson said. “But we’ve got willing passers. That’s a big part of it. With certain lineups, our spacing is pretty good. Some of those lineups, we’ve got multiple shooters out there.”

“Yeah, the ball movement has been good. About the only time it’s not is when the defense is keeping us from doing it. They want to move the ball. Japhet can set the table with that. He’s got the quickness to get in there and attract people.

“He’s capable of scoring a lot, but he’s a pass-first guy. (When) the point guard comes in with that mindset, it helps everybody.”

Newcomer John Buggs III is almost like a playmaker himself but, as a long-distance shooting specialist, he will play on the wing.

“We picture Japhet, Christian and Erik initiating the offense,” Henson said. “Now, you’re right. I love when we enter it to Buggs and let him make some plays. (Freshman) DJ (Richards) is a little more of a playmaker, too.”

“We need Buggs and we need DJ as three-point shooters, but they both have a good feel for (distributing). Buggs, coming off his knee injury (from last year, at Hill College), his explosiveness and quickness just continues to get better.

“He was that type of player in high school, where he could do some things off the dribble. His body is looking good. He’s getting quicker and more explosive.”

Camp standouts

Asked to point out players who have elevated their performances in the past week, Henson mentioned sophomores Lamin Sabally and Josh Farmer and senior Aleu Aleu.

“Lamin had three great practices in a row,” Henson said. “He was really good on (the final workout last week) and Monday and Tuesday. Josh has had his best stretch the last couple of weeks. And Aleu. Aleu’s been out with injury and some sickess, as well. But Tuesday and today, he was really good.

Lamin Sabally. UTSA men's basketball beat Rice 82-71 on Saturday, March 5, 2022, at the Convocation Center in the Roadrunners' final game of the regular season. The Conference USA Tournament starts Tuesday. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore forward Lamin Sabally is pushing for an expanded role after averaging 12.3 minutes in 21 games last season. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“He hopped in and defensively was really getting after it. He was attacking. I’d say those three in recent days have been very good.”

Germany said last week that he thinks Farmer, a 6-9 sophomore, might have made the most improvement of any returning player from last year. Henson wouldn’t disagree.

“He had a very good summer,” Henson said. “He’s figuring out, he’s been figuring out what to eliminate. That’s been a big thing for him. You know, eliminate this play. Eliminate that pass. Eliminate that shot. That in itself has helped him, and he’s gotten better at his strengths.

“He’s handling the ball better. He’s cleaner with the ball. Making simpler plays. You saw today, his athleticism and quickness … defensively, he’s flying around. Yeah, that’s fair to say, as far as the returners, he’s done a heck of a job.”

Injury updates

Seven-foot center Carlton Linguard, Jr., a junior transfer from Kansas State, is rehabilitating a knee injury and has some work to do to get himself fit enough to practice. Henson hasn’t put a timeline on when he can join the team on the practice floor.

Even then, Linguard also has some hurdles to clear on academics before he can play in a game, and the earliest he could play likely would be in the second semester. Linguard is attending practices, though the former Stevens High School standout has been limited to light shooting on his own and conditioning.

Aleu suffered a right knee injury last January and, consequently, was brought along slowly in the summer session workouts. By the end of August, he was cleared for contact as the team prepared to enter the fall semester.

Also about that time, freshman guard DJ Richards had his tonsils removed, but he is OK now. Both Aleu and Richards seem to be full strength now.

Spurs executive on campus

Henson met Thursday with longtime Spurs front office executive Joe Clark, who is the local NBA franchise’s vice president of youth sports and community engagement. Clark has been with the Spurs since 1985, according to the team’s website.

Asked if he’s collaborating with Clark on a youth sports project, Henson said, “We talked about a whole bunch of topics. How we can partner together a little bit. I think there’s some potential to do some things that would help both of us a lot. So, we’re excited about that.”

UTSA women pass a test of physical fitness and toughness

The end of an hour-long UTSA women’s basketball workout on Thursday morning wasn’t always a pretty sight. Mixed with the male practice players, the women were pressed into a physical, five-on-five session.

Sometimes, the offensive possessions went awry. But occasionally, as shown in the video above, the Roadrunners showed signs of coming together.

One play in particular was emblematic of the workout. After the offense worked the ball inside and out and a shot was fired from the perimeter, it caromed off to the side, where freshman Alexis Parker retrieved it.

Parker tossed it outside, where freshman point guard Sidney Love hit a shot from the top of the three-point circle. Two kids from the San Antonio area, making it happen at the end of a long morning, with nobody around to watch except for the coaches.

“Any time we step on the floor we expect a lot of energy, a lot of communication between our players and our best effort,” UTSA assistant coach Jamie Carey said. “So no matter if it’s a good day or a bad day we do expect that every day.”

Carey said she liked the team’s defensive effort.

“From a positional standpoint, we’re getting a lot better,” she said. “We’re learning how to communicate with each other.”

In addition, Carey applauded the competitive spirit.

“I thought the last five minutes with the guys was good today,” she said. “Just learning how to compete together (with) a lot of new faces (on the team). Just trying to develop some chemistry.”

UTSA players have cooked up Sunday dinner, and also team chemistry, in the early going

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

Scenes of bodies banging in the paint, players muscling for position on the perimeter and hard-fought possessions that ended with the ball caroming off the rim probably outnumbered the jump shots that swished through the nets on Tuesday afternoon at UTSA.

In the fourth week of time-limited, early-fall semester workouts, Steve Henson’s Roadrunners clearly remain something of a work in progress.

Jacob Germany, UTSA beat Denver 78-64 in men's basketball on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Jacob Germany emerged last season as one of the best offensive centers in Conference USA. – photo by Joe Alexander

One thing is certain, though. In the time that players on Henson’s seventh team at UTSA have been together since June, they have bonded well together. This semester, they’re practicing on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, congregating in study hall on Wednesdays, and then going back into workouts on Thursdays and Fridays.

On Saturday? They’re thinking like a lot of other UTSA students at this time of the year. “We’ll probably drive up to Austin (for the game against Texas) and tailgate a little bit,” said senior center Jacob Germany, who may also have something planned for Sunday, as well.

In weeks past, players have met at his apartment to talk over spiritual matters, not to mention chowing down on some of the 6-foot-11 Oklahoman’s finest culinary offerings. “We’ll have steak sandwiches, or spaghetti,” said Germany, who is the son of a chef and knows his way around the kitchen.

Last winter and spring, there were many days and nights when Germany didn’t look like he was having a whole lot of fun, and most of it likely stemmed from losing. Plagued with injuries, academic casualties and Covid-19 disruptions, the Roadrunners lost 22 games.

Germany enjoyed a fine season individually, averaging 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds. Though he made only honorable mention all conference, it was easy to see that his offensive game was one of the most advanced — if not the most advanced — of anyone playing his position in the C-USA.

But not even on nights when he’d go for 20-point, double-doubles did he seem as if he was enjoying himself all that much. In contrast, his easy-going demeanor on Tuesday afternoon was telling. He smiled easily. He just seemed at peace as he surveyed the scene at the Convocation Center.

Isaiah Addo-Ankrah, a walk-on who won a scholarship over the summer, took shot after shot on one end of the floor. By himself, he kept firing away. On the other end, guard John Buggs III, a newcomer, was also doing a solo routine, pumping up jumpers after everyone else had repaired to the dressing room.

“Look at those guys, out here 45 minutes after, still working,” Germany said.

This time last year, UTSA’s team was just hard to analyze. The key players were Jordan Ivy-Curry, Dhieu Deing, Cedrick Alley and Germany. It wasn’t as good as the 2017- to 2021-era Roadrunners team that featured guards Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace.

But it looked to me as if it could be a unit that would at least win half its games. To me, it looked good enough on paper to come out of the regular season, perhaps in the middle of the pack, with a chance to get hot at the conference tournament. As everyone knows, though, the 2021-22 Roadrunners never got close to that level.

And from last year’s nucleus, only Germany remains. In some respects, that’s sort of a frightening prospect. If you lose Ivy-Curry, Deing and Alley, you lose scoring, rebounding and athleticism, for sure. But I’m not so sure that this new team, perhaps with less overall athleticism, doesn’t have the capability to be more successful.

Maybe much more so.

Why? For one thing, it’s got a pass-first point guard in Japhet Meador and a physical two-guard in Buggs. Neither is comparable to Ivy-Curry or Deing in athletic ability. But in skill level and savvy? From early indications, both have displayed solid individual talents that could, in turn, make it easier for talent around them to flourish.

On Tuesday afternoon, at least, two returning players that struggled for much of last year looked much more settled and improved. Senior guard Erik Czumbel had a really good practice. Six-foot-seven sophomore forward Lamin Sabally also shot the ball with authority.

In one sequence, he took a shorter defender down to the low post and scored over the top. In another, he pulled up and swished a couple from the perimeter. Forward Aleu Aleu, beset with injuries since he arrived last year, didn’t look great but I’ve always thought he could be major factor if he can get healthy and into top shape.

Germany, for his part, said he thinks 6-foot-9 sophomore Josh Farmer has made the most progress of any of the returning players.

The key to it all may be Meador, a Florida native. It’s arguable that UTSA hasn’t had a player with distribution skills like him since Giovanni De Nicolao, who turned pro in 2018. “Japhet is crazy good,” Germany said. “When he comes off screens, he sees everything. His vision is really good.”

Seeing the floor is one thing. Seeing into the future in college basketball is another. It’s not easy, particularly at the mid-major level, because there are so many variable. But at least in mid-September, the leading returning scorer on the Roadrunners has a good feeling that bonding and team-building over the past few months could make a difference next March.

“We’re a lot closer this year,” Germany said. “It’s kind of refreshing.”

Aston says freshman Sidney Love is in the mix to start at point guard for UTSA

Sidney Love at UTSA women's basketball practice at the Convocation Center on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sidney Love was the player of the year in the San Antonio area last season at Cibolo Steele High School. She averaged 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as a senior. – Photo by Joe Alexander

As Karen Aston moves into her second season as head coach in charge of the UTSA women’s basketball program, a compelling narrative has emerged during early practices for the Roadrunners.

A freshman could lead them.

Aston said Tuesday that freshman Sidney Love from Cibolo Steele High School is in the running to start at point guard.

Love is battling in early fall semester practices with senior Deborah Nwakamma, as well as with freshmen Madison Cockrell and Siena Guttadauro.

“I think right now Sid is the person that we’re going to lean on the most at that position,” Aston said. “I think Deb can play it also. Deb is probably more calm at that position right now and knows more what’s going on. But I would love to play her at the two.

“We just got to let Sid take her lumps and grow and learn the position. She’s doing a good job. I think she’ll get there.”

Sudden impact — San Antonio’s Josh Jung homers in MLB debut

San Antonio native and Texas Rangers rookie Josh Jung on Friday made his first at-bat in the major leagues a memorable one, belting a home run over the left field wall in Arlington.

Jung, formerly of San Antonio MacArthur High School and Texas Tech University, led off the third inning in a home game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

He ripped an 0-2 offering from Texas A&M-ex Ross Stripling 388 feet into the seats just beyond the wall at Globe Life Field.

With the blast, Jung became just the second player in the history of the Rangers to homer in his first trip to the plate. He followed Jurickson Profar, who did it in 2012 in a game at Cleveland, according to Kennedi Landry of mlb.com.

In the end, the Blue Jays won, 4-3. The Rangers rallied from a three run deficit to tie it, 3-3. The Blue Jays scored in the top of the ninth to take the lead.

With a runner on first in the bottom of the ninth, Jung struck out swinging against Jordan Romano to end the game. For the night, he went 2 for 4 with a homer, a single and a stolen base.

San Antonio’s Josh Jung expected to make MLB debut with the Texas Rangers on Friday

San Antonio native Josh Jung is being called up to play for the Texas Rangers, media outlets covering the franchise reported Wednesday. The Rangers’ first-round draft pick in 2019 is expected to make his debut on Friday.

Jung played in high school at MacArthur in the North East Independent School District. He was a four-time all-district honoree, a three-time all-region winner and three-time all-state through the 2016 season.

With his promotion from Triple-A Round Rock to the Rangers, Jung follows two other MacArthur baseball legends into the major leagues — catchers Jerry Grote and John Gibbons.

Grote caught Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan and won a World Series with the Mets in 1969. Gibbons also played for the Mets and managed the Blue Jays. Another San Antonian, Odie Davis, briefly played shortstop for the Rangers in 1980.

Armed with a powerful batting stroke and agility in the field, Jung established himself in college as one of the top infielders in the history of Texas Tech University. He hit .306, .392 and .343 in his three seasons in Lubbock, leading the Red Raiders to the College World Series as a junior in 2019.

As a result, the Rangers made him the No. 8 overall selection in the baseball draft that summer. In the minor leagues, Jung dominated at the plate with a batting average of .311, an on-base percentage of .381 and a slugging percentage of .538.

He produced 30 home runs and 118 RBIs in 153 games covering the 2019, 2021 and 2022 seasons. Baseball wasn’t played in the minors in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jung is expected to play third base and perhaps some at first with the Rangers. He’s expected to make his debut on Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rangers will host the Blue Jays in Arlington from Friday through Sunday.

Since the end of last season, speculation swirled that Jung would be a candidate to make the major leagues at some point in 2022.

Those plans were altered slightly when he suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder during spring training.

His season started July 28 when he was sent to the Arizona Complex League on a rehabilitation assignment. By Aug. 9, he joined the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock.

Jung has looked good at the plate in Triple-A, hitting .274, with a .317 on-base percentage. His slugging percentage was .526. He homered six times and drove in 24 runs in 31 games.

It’s been a big year for the Jung family. Earlier this summer, Josh’s younger brother, Jace Jung, was picked 12th overall on the first round of the draft by the Detroit Tigers. He is playing in the minor leagues in High Class A for the West Michigan Whitecaps.

Jace Jung also played in high school at MacArthur and in college at Texas Tech. While Josh Jung hits from the right side, Jace Jung bats lefty. He, too, hits for power. Both throw right-handed.

A long dry spell for the UTSA women’s basketball program could be nearing an end

Kyra White and Jordyn Jenkins

Kyra White (left) and Jordyn Jenkins have started fall workouts with the UTSA Roadrunners after transferring from Southern Cal. White played in high school locally at Judson. Jenkins, from Kent, Wash., received all-Pac 12 honors last season. — Photo by Joe Alexander

Driving cautiously from my home to the UTSA campus one morning last week, gray clouds hung low on the horizon as I splashed through puddles on the road during the first substantial downpour in San Antonio in several months.

Surprisingly enough, when I finally reached my destination at UTSA women’s basketball practice, the precipitation continued. As soon as a spirited five-on-five session began, different players started to rain shots from all over the place.

Coach Karen Aston at UTSA women's basketball practice at the Convocation Center on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

Coach Karen Aston is preaching patience as the Roadrunners to ty mesh six returning players with eight newcomers. – photo by Joe Alexander

Not all of them splashed through the nets.

But one of them, a three out of the corner, was hoisted decisively at the end of a transition play. It snapped the cords. More than a few mid-range jumpers rattled in. A big center displayed solid footwork in advance of banking in a couple from close range.

Granted, this was one practice. It was the one and only practice involving the UTSA women that I’ve seen in more than a year.

But Karen Aston acknowledged in a telephone interview on Friday that she, too, has detected a marked uptick in offensive potential since she revamped the roster for her second season as head coach.

“Definitely, I think we’re going to be able to put the ball in the basket a little more frequently than we could last year,” Aston said. “Again, last year’s team gave me (100 percent). I think we squeezed everything we could out of ‘em.

“I thought they were one of the most enjoyable teams I’ve ever coached. One of the most coachable teams I’ve ever (worked with), but we struggled to score the ball. This team will do that a little bit easier.”

Sidney Love at UTSA women's basketball practice at the Convocation Center on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sidney Love (center) was the player of the year in the San Antonio area last season at Steele High School. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Could it be that Aston’s rebuild of a historically downtrodden program is moving along at a faster pace than you might expect? Could it be that a drought of seven-straight seasons with losing records might be coming to an end?

It could be. As a team, the Roadrunners are decidedly bigger and more athletic than usual, and they also have more than a few players with offensive ability, which always helps. The coach has 14 players on her team, eight of them newcomers, including heralded Southern Cal transfer Jordyn Jenkins.

The other day, I noticed that Jenkins was hitting shots with regularity from 15 feet and in. Returning center Elyssa Coleman and wing player Queen Ulabo also looked as if they had been in the gym quite a bit this summer.

“Two things are going to help us be better,” Aston said. “The returners seem so much more comfortable right now in who they are and what we expect from them, as opposed to last year, (when) nobody knew. Also, the two kids from USC (Jenkins and Kyra White) are going to come in and give us some experience and maturity from playing at a high level.”

Jenkins, a power forward, and White, a wing player and a former a prep standout at Judson High School, should provide an instant boost to the Roadrunners.

Another local favorite could be Steele High School-ex Sidney Love, last year’s player of the year in the San Antonio area. Love leads a group of three promising freshmen point guards, which also includes Texan Madison Cockrell and Californian Siena Guttadauro.

Queen Ulabo at UTSA women's basketball practice at the Convocation Center on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

Senior Queen Ulabo has assumed a new role, moving from the post to the perimeter. Ulabo is considered one of the most improved returning players on the roster. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“I think the biggest challenge for this group is the point guard situation,” Aston said. “We’ve got young kids. They’re talented, and I love how they compete. (But) they’re all freshmen with the exception of (senior) Deborah (Nwakamma) … They’re going to have their highs and lows.”

Last year, as Aston began the painstaking task of turning around a traditionally downtrodden program, the Roadrunners finished 7-23. They completed the Conference USA regular season at 3-14.

In doing so, they shot a frightful 33.2 percent from the field, which ranked last in the C-USA and 346th out of 348 teams nationally. Based on what I saw the other day, though, this team could be dramatically better on the offensive end.

It’ll all start with Jenkins, an athletic, 6-foot forward from Kent, Wash. Last year, she emerged as an all-Pac 12 Conference performer, while averaging 14.8 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Trojans.

Last week, I watched her score about five baskets in a very short period of time during five-on-five work.

“Jordyn Jenkins is really talented,” Aston said. “She can do a lot of things. She’s versatile at the forward position. And in my opinion, if she sticks this thing out, and does the things she’s capable of doing, I think she’s a pro. I think there’s potential (for her) to be a pro. No question about that.”

Returning players who have caught Aston’s eye in terms of individual improvement in their games have been Coleman, Ulabo, Nwakamma and Hailey Atwood.

“They just look so much more confident in themselves and what they’re doing,” Aston said. “Their skills are better. It’s hard for me to pick one of those returners because they’ve all improved a lot. A whole lot.”

How good can the team be?

“Obviously with eight new players it’s going to be a process,” Aston said. “I mean, it’s almost like it was last year, where chemistry will have to be built … Patience is going to be important for us.”

Elyssa Coleman at UTSA women's basketball practice at the Convocation Center on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

Sophomore center Elyssa Coleman averaged 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds last season. Coleman produced 21 points and 11 rebounds in a C-USA tournament victory over UTEP. – Photo by Joe Alexander

All together now — UTSA hopes to build on intangibles and move past troubled times

UTSA men's basketball player Massal Diouf at the Convocation Center on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA freshman Massal Diouf, from The Netherlands, played well Wednesday afternoon in a series of informal pickup games at the Convocation Center. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

Acknowledging a “bad taste” left over from a disappointing 10-win season, seventh-year UTSA basketball coach Steve Henson has expressed guarded optimism about his latest work-in-progress, a squad buoyed by senior center Jacob Germany, an infusion of backcourt talent and a feeling that the group is pulling together as one.

Steve Henson. UAB beat UTSA 68-56 on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Conference USA men's basketball at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Seventh-year UTSA basketball coach Steve Henson says he likes the feel around his program, with everyone pulling together. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Henson didn’t mention the word redemption. But he said he hasn’t been as hungry or as excited to win since he took the UTSA job in 2016. “You have to turn the page, just move on (and) get that bad taste out of your mouth,” the coach said in an interview at his office on Tuesday.

Derailed by adversity, including injuries, Covid-19 disruptions, a senior starter lost to academics and issues related to key scorers who couldn’t stay on the same page with the coaches, Henson’s sixth team at UTSA finished 10-22 overall and 3-15 in Conference USA.

It was a humbling experience for the coach, who had guided the Roadrunners to winning seasons in three of the previous four years, including a 20-win season in 2017-18.

“Going back and watching some of those games (from last year, on tape), it doesn’t get any better three, four, five months later,” he said. “It was frustrating to see us play that way. So, there’s that motivating factor.”

The other primary motivation is a new collection of players that Henson really likes.

“Eight or nine weeks (in the summer) with these guys, with one week off in the middle, they’re just so enjoyable to be around,” the coach said. “They come to the office. They enjoy each other. They have a good time.

“They work. They invest. They put the time in. The energy level is terrific with this group.”

The newcomers

The Roadrunners reeled in five new players last spring, and two of them could take on starters’ roles and significant playing time when the season tips off in November.

Junior guards Japhet Medor and John Buggs III have shown promise. Medor, a 5-foot-11 Floridian with quickness and an ability to create in the paint, will compete at point guard. Buggs is a Louisiana native who can do a little of everything as a shooting guard.

UTSA men's basketball player Japhet Medor at the Convocation Center on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA newcomer Japhet Medor, a junior transfer, is expected to contend for a starter’s role at point guard. He’s known as an effective distributor, but he also displayed in informal scrimmages on Wednesday a smooth stroke on his jump shot. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“Our juco guards are extremely mature,” Henson said. “They just absolutely understand how to be great teammates and leaders … We’re counting on those two to have a big impact on us in terms of minutes and roles but also in intangible things, as well.”

Another guard, 6-5 freshman DJ Richards, is from Cypress Creek High School in the Houston area. He prepped at Montverde Academy in Florida last season.

Hoping to earn playing time in the post is freshman Massal Diouf (6-9, 235) from Gouda, The Netherlands. He’s played with U-16 and U-18 Dutch national teams and attended Western Canada Prep Academy.

Seven-foot Carlton Linguard Jr., who played at Stevens High School in San Antonio, isn’t academically eligible yet. Linguard (7-0, 220) isn’t expected to play for at least the first semester. At the outset of his college career, he had one solid season at Temple Junior College and spent past two in a lesser role at Kansas State in the Big 12.

Big man returns

Germany averaged 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds last year as a junior. Even though the Roadrunners struggled, the 6-foot-11 Oklahoman emerged as one of the best offensive post players in the C-USA. Germany displayed an expanded array of skills, throwing hook shots from 10 and 12 feet while improving his scoring average by five points from his sophomore year.

Earning a scholarship

Coming off a surprisingly strong second season in the program, three-point shooting specialist Isaiah Addo-Ankrah was awarded a scholarship this summer. The 6-foot-6 Houston native broke out in January of last season by hitting three 3-pointers off the bench at UTEP and five at Rice. He is classified as a sophomore.

Getting healthy

Multi-skilled Aleu Aleu has been cleared for contact work when the team begins its initial phase of fall-semester practice on Monday, Henson said. Limited by leg injuries and missing time due to Covid-19, the 6-foot-8 wing played only 10 games for the Roadrunners last season.

Speculation

Players capable of handling point guard duties this year might include the likes of Japhet, senior Erik Czumbel and sophomore Christian Tucker. At the two-guard, look for Buggs, Czumbel and Richards. Wing forwards would include Addo-Ankrah, Aleu, Lamin Sabally and Azavier Johnson. A power forward group might be comprised of Lachlan Bofinger, Josh Farmer, Aleu and Addo-Ankrah. At center? Germany, Farmer, Diouf and Linguard.

The schedule

UTSA will host the Schreiner Mountaineers on Nov. 2 in an exhibition, according to the schedule announced on Tuesday.

UTSA men's basketball player John Buggs III at the Convocation Center on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA newcomer John Buggs III has impressed coaches with his skills and leadership. The Louisiana native averaged 15.2 points and shot 47.3 percent from three last year at Hill College. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The regular season will commence on Nov. 7 at home against Trinity. On Nov. 11, the Roadrunners will play on the road against the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders, who in the postseason last spring swept to the Southland Conference title en route to the NCAA tournament.

UTSA returns home to play the St. Mary’s Rattlers on Nov. 14. A homestand continues with a visit from Sun Belt regular-season champion Texas State on Nov. 17, and from Prairie View A&M on Nov. 22.

In the 210 San Antonio Shootout, UTSA hosts Grambling State on Nov. 25, Dartmouth on Nov. 27 and Incarnate Word on Nov. 28.

Hitting the road, the Roadrunners play at the University of New Mexico on Dec. 10 and at Utah on Dec. 13. The Utah game will be the only one in the regular season against a power conference program. In a final tune up before conference, UTSA hosts Bethune Cookman on Dec. 18. C-USA play starts early, on Dec. 22, with a visit from the North Texas Mean Green.